A works Porsche driver for much of the 2000s, Romain Dumas’ stellar record in endurance racing culminated in the 2016 World Endurance Championship. Double LMP2 champion in the American Le Mans Series, he has won 24-hour races at the Nürburgring, Spa-Francorchamps and Le Mans and now holds the record for the Pikes Peak hillclimb with the electric Volkswagen ID.R. He then bettered the 20-year-old record for the Goodwood hillclimb during practice for the 2019 Festival of Speed but could not repeat it for the all-important Sunday Shootout due to a damp track.
Single-seater racing career
His racing career dates back to 1992 but it was three years before he won a race. That was in Formula Campus and his single-seater experiences extended as far as Formula 1 tests for Renault in the winter of 2002. But although he won races along the way he was never quite the class of the field.
Third in Formula Renault for La Filière in 1997, Dumas endured a disappointing Formula 3 campaign a year later when only 14th. He was slated to make his Formula 3000 debut at the Nürburgring’s 1999 race but failed to qualify for ORECA.
A return to F3 and La Filière netted sixth in the 2000 French Championship before he spent the next two seasons in the Euro 3000 series. It was during that period that Dumas came closest to single-seater title success as he was 2002 runner-up behind Jaime Melo Jr for John Village Automotive.
Endurance racing switch with Porsche
He was already looking to GTs and, those Renault F1 tests apart, that would be his immediate future. He was second in the GT class of the 2001 and 2002 Le Mans 24 Hours and signed for Porsche a year later. Winner of the 2003 Spa 24 Hours with a Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3, Stéphane Ortelli and Marc Lieb, he was also third in the German Porsche Carrera Cup and won his class at that year’s Petit Le Mans.
It was when Porsche launched a LMP2 sports car programme in America that he really came to the fore on an international stage. Part of the Penske Racing driving strength that won six times outright during the 2007 ALMS season, he clinched the class title with co-driver Timo Bernhard.
He won the 2007 Nürburgring 24 Hours with Olaf Manthey’s GT3 Porsche in the first of three successive victories in the race – all with an unchanged line-up of Marc Lieb, Timo Bernhard and Marcel Tiemann. He also won the race in 2011 when Tiemann had been replaced by Lucas Luhr.
Le Mans winner for Audi
Bernhard and Dumas repeated their ALMS LMP2 success in 2008 – their Porsche RS Spyder again beating the LMP1 cars on occasion. He won both the Le Mans and Spa 24 Hours in 2010 when driving an Audi North America’s R15-Plus diesel and BMS Scuderia Italia Porsche RSR respectively.
He continued to represent Audi in the new World Endurance Championship in 2012. A winner at Spa-Francorchamps, Dumas crashed twice during the Le Mans 24 Hours and he only finished fifth. He also drove a Mini on the Rallye de France but it proved a difficult experience – the Frenchman rolling on the second day before finishing in a distant 16th position.
Successful return to Porsche
Dumas returned to Porsche in 2013 and won the GTE-Pro class at Le Mans driving a works-backed Manthey 911 RSR. He also finished the Rallye de France in a points-scoring 10th position on a one-off event behind the wheel of a privately run Ford Fiesta RS WRC.
Porsche entered the LMP1 class of the World Endurance Championship from 2014 and Dumas shared a 919 Hybrid with Neel Jani and Marc Lieb for the next three seasons. They qualified on the front row for that year’s Le Mans 24 Hours and scored the marque’s first win of the year in the final race in Brazil. That was enough for Dumas, Jani and Lieb to clinch third in the drivers’ standings.
On pole position for the 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours, they were effected by brake issues during the race that results in a couple of off-track excursions and a distant fifth at the finish. They scored five second places and again won the final race of the year – the 6 Hours of Bahrain –as they claimed third in the championship once more.
World Champion and Le Mans winner again
The combination of Dumas, Jani, Lieb and #2 Porsche 919 Hybrid won both the dramatic Le Mans 24 Hours and World Endurance Championship in 2016. Dumas was nudged into a spin during the opening race at Silverstone but they recovered to finish second on the road. However, that became victory when the leading Audi failed scrutineering. They then inherited victory at Le Mans when Kazuki Nakajima’s Toyota ground to a halt with just five minutes remaining. That established a clear points lead and they clinched the world title by finishing the remaining races in the top six.
Replaced in Porsche’s prototype line-up for 2017, Dumas joined Signature Alpine’s LMP2 squad at Spa-Francorchamps and Le Mans. He rejoined Porsche for the 2018 Le Mans 24 Hours sharing a GT-Pro 911 RSR with Timo Bernhard and Sven Müller although the suspension failed with 92 laps completed.
Victory at Pikes Peak
It is at the famous Pikes Peak International Hillclimb and Goodwood Festival of Speed that Dumas has been centre stage in recent years. In America, he drove a prototype Norma M20 RD to outright victory on the 12-mile “Race to the Clouds” in 2014 and repeated that success in 2016 and 2017.
He was chosen to give the fully electric Volkswagen ID.R its competitive debut at Pikes Peak in 2018. Not only did he break the existing electric record, but Dumas became the first driver to complete the course in under eight minutes – his 7min 57.148 establishing a new record and good enough for Dumas to win the event for the fourth time in five years. Volkswagen attempted the beat Nick Heidefeld’s 20-year-old record for the Goodwood hill (41.6sec) at the 2019 Festival of Speed. Electric lap recorder at the Nürburgring Nordschleife (6min05.336sec), Dumas recorded 39.9sec during practice at Goodwood but a damp track prevented him repeating that time in the Sunday Shootout.